Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gorillapod Camera Tripod

This is a very cool tripod that allows you to mount a camera in funky secure ways. But I am thinking that this would be a wonderful tool for positioning switches for students or other items that are lightweight. So often we struggle with switch mounting for some students because there is no where to secure the switch whiles a student is in a specific device like a stander or even some adaptive seating equipment. This little device allows for various positions that increase possibilities for switches, tools and whatever else our imagination can think up.

I love the fact that now I can position a camera on a child’s chair at their eye level and they can take pictures. We now can get a feel for what our students are seeing and their interpretations of the world around them. The beauty of a digital camera is that pictures can be deleted or merged together to create an collage with our students actively participating.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

ATIA Conference - January 2008

It seems that my blog has turned into conference central. There is more to life then conferences but I think it is important to share information on conferences that offer intermediate and advance training.

If you missed out on Closing the Gap you will have another chance to go to a large well established conference in assistive technology. The
ATIA conference will happens January 30 - February 2, 2008 in Orlando, Florida.

I have to be up front, I have never had the pleasure of attending ATIA. I am hoping to go this year. So I cannot talk about personal experience just from the feedback of others that have attended.

I like the fact that the exhibitor hall has unopposed time which means that you don’t have to miss a presentation or workshop to go the exhibit hall. One of the biggest frustrations that I often hear from participants at Closing the Gap is that they have to make a choice either presentations or the exhibitors. And if you have guess, participants pick the presentations.

Another thing that I have noticed is that ATIA builds in a lunch hour. Now this doesn’t seem like a big deal but let’s acknowledge the fact that we often skip meals because there are more important things to do. If you do not nourish and hydrate your body your brain will not be able to be nourished. This hour also gives you a chance to rest your body and mind.

I also like that ATIA has set up conference planner so you can plan your conference sessions out in advance. For some people this isn’t a big deal, for me I love a plan. I can deviate from the plan but it is nice to have one.

The biggest draw for ATIA seems to be the type of presentations that happen during the conference. Closing the Gap is more of an educational based conference. Many of the presentations center on Pre-K through 12. ATIA on the other hand has a nice sampling of presentations in various categories which include Advocacy and Policy, Independent living, blind and visual impairments,
literacy, employment as well as transition to "post-secondary" education.

It also doesn't help that the conference is in the warm location of Orlando. You can learn about AT and see Mickey at the same time.

I hope others will share their experience of ATIA or other conferences.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Next Conference to Look Forward too...

Professional development can be a difficult thing to find when you are beyond a beginner and not yet an advance user. Closing the Gap has kicked off their preconference sessions yesterday and today. I personally love preconference sessions. It is a chance to get emerged into one topic for 8 hours. You may come out of the session exhausted but you have acquired invaluable information. I know people that just attend CTG for the preconference sessions and leave afterwards. Not what I recommend.

So if you are like me and missed CTG you maybe asking yourself what conferences are on the horizon that I can professional development outside of my knowledge or skill range?

The first conference to consider is the TRLD (Technology, Reading & Learning Diversity) which is held in San Francisco. This conference is owned and operated by Don Johnston. Inc. No, it is not a Don Johnston. Inc dog and pony show.

The conference is not just about assistive technology it is a conference that embraces general education topics and presenters as well as assistive technology. As a participant, you have the opportunity to be in small presentations with leaders in the field of technology and implementation.

Let's face it, assistive technology tools are just that tools. But to get true implementation and consistency you have to understand the inner workings of the tasks that are being accommodated. Many of us know how to work around reading but few of us understand how to remediate struggling readers or understand the why the person is struggling. The same can be said about any of the core areas such as writing, math, and organization.

The TRLD conference is a small intimate conference that doesn’t get much press but I honestly believe that everyone should give it a try at least one time. Trust me; you attend once you want to attend a second and third time. It is a conference that is rich in research based experiences and knowledge and the presenters are in the forefront of the field of implementation.

The other plus side is that San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. The location of the conference is central to all the hot spots in the city. The Hyatt hotel is one of the best in the city. A great view, spacious living area and bathroom, the food is very tasty (especially the breakfast), expensive. It is in the financial district of the city. You also can’t beat the location: Across the street from Walgreens and Starbucks (if you like coffee). OK so if you never have been to SF, I will let you in on a little secret: there is a Walgreens on virtually every corner.

You may think I am kidding there are 57 Walgreens in the city of San Francisco. There are less expensive hotels in the area.

I have to tell you, I had the pleasure of staying at the Monticello InnMonticello Inn. The room was not overly large, clean and reasonably priced for San Francisco. It takes 5-6 minutes to get to the Hyatt by bus or if you can get the hotel car shuttle (free) to the hotel. It is located in the Union Square section of the city. There is a wonderful diner that has the best milk shakes and good. One word of caution, it is near the Tenderloin section of the city. Don’t venture too far from the hotel at night into the Tenderloin section during the day it isn’t too bad but during the night, the story changes drastically.

Another hotel in the area of the Hyatt is The Harbor Court Hotel. It was a pleasurable stay. The cost was reasonable for San Francisco. The room size is on the small size but for SF that is considered normal.

San Francisco is a city that sleeps. Union Square and the financial district go quiet pretty early in the night. I would say by 8 you are done unless you go to the wharf.

Ghirardelli square is worth the journey for the warm chocolate chip hot fudge sundae.

There is one restaurant down in the Wharf that is a must try especially if you like excellent seafood. It is not the typical tourist place. Scoma's Restaurant is a hidden little gem.

If you plan on going to Alcatraz, order your tickets early. They often sell out quickly. I prefer the night tour to the day tour. You get more interaction with the Park rangers. It is also less busy. I recommend purchasing tickets directly from the source and not from the tour companies: Alcatraz Tour .

If you like to have a little fun at night and like paranormal activities check out the Ghost Hunt. The tour guide is a real character and knows the history of the city. It is worth the three hours that you walk around to hear the rich history of the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco.

There are many things to do in SF after you have attended the conference.

Just an FYI: January is rainy the rainy season for San Francisco. Don't let that dampen your time. There are a TON of things to do while the weather might be wet.

Monday, October 15, 2007

AMDI and News-2-You

AMDI and New-2-you are now have a partnership. This is great news. AMDI is a communication system company. The pairing allows New-2-You users to have pre-made communication boards that will help parents and educators facilitate language with meaning if they are using an AMDI product.

This is part of a news release sent out today.

AMDi has created new Smart-Ease activities for the Smart/Speak and Smart/128 entitled News-2-You to go along with the pre-existing Smart/Talk activity, Lets Talk: Current events. Each of these Smart-Ease activity page sets has everything needed to participate, answer, and comment about current News-2-You topics. In addition to the ability to participate in common News-2-You activities such as recipes, knock knock jokes, and Joey’s locker activities, the News-2-You Smart-Ease also provide customizable areas to add weekly vocabulary words and much more. The News-2-You Smart-Ease activities will come with preprinted overlays containing important vocabulary needed to participate as well as a flash card containing pre-programmed messages for each level. Simply pop in the flash card, slide in the overlay, and allow your user to become a full participant in News-2-You!

I hope other AAC companies join in the partnership. More of our AAC users will have an opportunity to have conversations about every day news events, interactions with others with jokes or talking about what is happening in recreation leisure activities.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Closing the Gap without me

Hello! Everyone

I was very much looking forward to CTG this year however my plans needed to change. For the past 7 months I have been dealing with IS joint dysfunction. It has been one major pain in the Gluteus maximus. I am having radiofrequency neurotomy . I am looking forward to being up and around again. Laying flat on your back the majority of your day isn't as exciting as you would think. No matter how over worked you may think you are months on bed rest isn't really all that exciting.

In reality it hasn't been all horrible. I was able to watch hours and hours of court TV. Still scratching my head about how Phil Specter wasn't found guilty. I am not sure what it takes to convict a "famous" person in California. I have also had a chance to really explore all the software that is often recommended for students with significant disabilities. I even had a chance to make some activities for the core curriculum of New Jersey.

Please stop by Judy Lynn software and say Hi! to Karen and Elliot. Take a catalog and tell them that Jeannette sent you.